In which Tony gets his racing mojo back and I have (yet another) puncture

Despite the glorious start to the day, the forecast for the afternoon was somewhat dispiriting: more heavy showers. So it was with a certain degree of unenthusiasm that Tony and I set out for this afternoon event over on the N1/10 near Sawtry. I haven’t been going well since my last bout of illness, and Tony seems to have lost his keenness for racing: we were hopeful that we’d both get our ‘racing mojo’ back at this race. We drove round the course before heading in to the race HQ, where signing on was in a strange green edifice that mostly resembled a container. This was conveniently located next to a sports facility that appeared to be hosting not only 105 bike riders and associated marshals, timekeepers and refreshment personnel, but also two cricket teams (with their associated helpers) and two football teams (and their associated helpers). Peculiarly, though all three sets of sportsmen/women were all intermingled, they appeared to be studiously avoiding eye contact and inter-sport communications were just about nil.

Anyway, Tony and I drove off to park somewhere nearer the start. At this point, it was quite sunny and warm, though with a stiff breeze. I set the bike up and went off for a warmup. It seemed pretty clear that the wind was a cross-wind, but probably favouring the return leg. The N1/10 is on the B1034, the old north road, which runs along the side of the A1(M). It’s quiet in traffic levels, but undulates quite a bit as it rises for intersections with and bridges over the A1(M). One roundabout in particular was singled out for attention on the start sheet, because it not only featured incoming traffic from the motorway, but had an unfeasibly sharp exit turn. Oh, and some significant potholes…

Off I went, immediately feeling I had to push hard in the cross-wind. But at least I felt as though I had some energy to press out. My speed was fluctuating depending on how much shelter I had from the wind, and of course on what the gradient was. I made it through all the roundabouts without delays, including the ‘difficult’ roundabout (which was enlivened by two small girls cheering riders on with clacking plastic hands). I rode past David Jones, out taking pictures as usual. I sucked my stomach in just in case (recent photos from the Jones camera do indicate I have at present got the stomach physique of Bart Simpson), and pressed on towards the turn. I was almost at the turn when I felt the unmistakeable sensation of a wheel rim bumping on tarmac. Sure enough, I had a front puncture*. About 4.5 miles from the finish. And even further from the car.

Well, at least it wasn’t raining. Yet. There were dark clouds looming as I began the trudge back. Fortunately, a lady who with her motorcycle riding husband was checking the event for adherence to CTT regulations offered me a lift back to the finish area. This was really kind, and I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t ask her name. I was at the start area to cheer Tony off, then I walked back to the car. Somewhat embarrassingly, I noticed that we’d parked very close to the back of an ‘Adult Shop’, so goodness knows what people thought of two lycra-clad blokes in a parked car in that location.

So in the end I did less than half of the race, while Tony did a good 22:17. He said he’d had difficulty with the wind blowing him about at times, but fortunately neither of us suffered from rain. Back to the green portacabin to hand in our numbers and to wait for results. Once again cricketers (who were having their tea break with an enormous spread of sausage rolls and the like) and cyclists mingled without communication. I am sure there’s an interesting sociology project in there somewhere.

From Sawtry it was back home through heavy showers for a Spanish-themed dinner of Paella and a chocolate and membrillo tart. So not all was bad in the day.

*This is puncture #4 of the 2012 season, but the only one that has occurred during a race. The others were either before or after racing.